The Toronto Raptors may have an ace up their sleeve when it comes to recruiting Kawhi Leonard to stay after leading the team to its first-ever NBA title — none other than hometown rapper Drake.
As The Fader reported, Leonard was in Toronto this week to meet with team management before making his final decision on free agency. Leonard had already met with his two Los Angeles hometown teams, the Clippers and Lakers, then saved the pitch from the Raptors for last.
The Raptors appear to be selling far more than just a contract. As Chris Broussard of Fox Sports reported, Toronto rapper Drake was “heavily involved” in negotiations and discussed the idea of having Leonard involved in his OVO record label.
The pitch from Drake could actually address one of Kawhi Leonard’s biggest career concerns. As Silver Screen and Roll reported last year, one of the main reasons Kawhi wanted out of the San Antonio Spurs was a fear that the team was hurting his marketability. Scott Davis of Business Insider reported that Leonard’s family feared that he was losing out on potential revenue from sponsors by playing in San Antonio.
“A league source told Business Insider that Leonard’s agency and family have never been fond of Texas and feel that San Antonio, a small market, has hurt Leonard’s marketability when it comes to sponsors. The same source said Leonard’s shy personality is more to blame for his inability to get more sponsorships than San Antonio’s market size,” the report noted.
The involvement with Drake’s record label would likely be a major boost to Kawhi Leonard’s marketability, which could help the Raptors stay on equal footing with sponsorship possibilities that would come from playing in Los Angeles.
Kawhi Update: Raptors had strong meeting yesterday. Drake heavily involved. Talked of having Kawhi involved w/his OVO record label. Kawhi in deep soul searching. Wants Lakers but wants to make sure Big 3 will fit/work. Clippers out. It’s btwn Lakers & Raptors. Very close.
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 4, 2019
After a series of reports earlier in the week claiming that the Los Angeles Lakers were in the lead to land Kawhi Leonard, there is much more uncertainty about where he will decide to play for the near future. On Friday morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said (via NESN) that a decision is “relatively imminent” and that Kawhi won’t wait too much longer. Without giving much insight on what Kawhi is expected to choose, Wojnarowski said the NBA Finals MVP is taking his time because of the complexity of the decision between two very different markets in two different countries.
Kawhi Leonard is expected to announce his decision today.
It will shift the balance of power in the league.
If Kawhi chooses the Raps or Clippers, 2019-20 would be the most competitive and unpredictable season the NBA has experienced in quite some time:https://t.co/y7eNOJHM4n
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) July 5, 2019
Other reports have stated that Kawhi Leonard is expected to make his free agency decision on Friday, though it was not clear exactly when it could be announced.